When you ask anyone with a soft spot for young adult fantasy to list their favorite audiobooks of all time, you’ll notice certain key titles appear again and again. It’s the usual suspects – Harry Potter Audiobook, The Lord of the Rings Audiobook, The Chronicles of Narnia Audiobook, The Earthsea Cycle Audiobook, The Chronicles of Prydain Audiobook… and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Audiobook series.
His Dark Materials is a trilogy of fantasy audiobook series by Philip Pullman consisting of Northern Lights (known as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. It follows the coming of age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes.
Although His Dark Materials has been marketed as young adult fiction, Pullman wrote with no target audience in mind. The fantasy elements include witches and armored polar bears; the trilogy also alludes to concepts from physics, philosophy, and theology. It functions in part as a retelling and inversion of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, with Pullman commending humanity for what Milton saw as its most tragic failing, original sin. The series has attracted controversy for its criticism of religion.
Pullman is a magnificent writer and every single book drips with character and ambition. While some have chaffed at the series’ depiction of religion, His Dark Materials is a humanist masterpiece, strongly advocating for a world where love, free will, and bravery prevail.
It’s also hugely heartbreaking, romantic, and personal, while still being mind-blowingly huge in scope.
Basically, it has everything. And, now that there are new novels and a new television show coming out, it’s the perfect time to revisit His Dark Materials or journey into Lyra’s world for the very first time.
The series is epic, emotional, dense (in all the best ways), inventive, and flat-out breathtaking.
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